A Speaking God: Psalm 81

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Today’s Sunday Psalms entry is written by Timothy Tennent.

Psalm 81 (NIV)

Sing for joy to God our strength;
    shout aloud to the God of Jacob!
Begin the music, strike the timbrel,
    play the melodious harp and lyre.

Sound the ram’s horn at the New Moon,
    and when the moon is full, on the day of our festival;
this is a decree for Israel,
    an ordinance of the God of Jacob.
When God went out against Egypt,
    he established it as a statute for Joseph.

I heard an unknown voice say:

“I removed the burden from their shoulders;
    their hands were set free from the basket.
In your distress you called and I rescued you,
    I answered you out of a thundercloud;
    I tested you at the waters of Meribah.
Hear me, my people, and I will warn you—
    if you would only listen to me, Israel!
You shall have no foreign god among you;
    you shall not worship any god other than me.
10 I am the Lord your God,
    who brought you up out of Egypt.
Open wide your mouth and I will fill it.

11 “But my people would not listen to me;
    Israel would not submit to me.
12 So I gave them over to their stubborn hearts
    to follow their own devices.

13 “If my people would only listen to me,
    if Israel would only follow my ways,
14 how quickly I would subdue their enemies
    and turn my hand against their foes!
15 Those who hate the Lord would cringe before him,
    and their punishment would last forever.
16 But you would be fed with the finest of wheat;
    with honey from the rock I would satisfy you.”

Sing this psalm with the Seedbed Psalter today! Visit the resource here.

CONSIDER THIS

This psalm highlights God’s speaking and our hearing. It is another example of how Asaph draws from Israel’s history, particularly their deliverance from Egypt and their testing in the wilderness, to recall how God spoke or revealed himself to his people. These are good reminders for us today. God spoke to them through divine acts of redemption and rescue. God declares, “In your distress you called and I rescued you” (v. 7).

This psalm teaches us three ways God speaks to us. First, God speaks to us through his actions. God acts to save and to redeem us. The second way God speaks to us is through testing and trials. Israel was led from the joyous victory of the Red Sea to the difficult testing at the “waters of Meribah” (v. 7). We need to recognize his voice in the midst of our own difficult times. The third way God speaks to us is through the revelation of his Word. This psalm actually recalls one of the Ten Commandments that thundered down from Mount Sinai: “You shall have no foreign god among you” (v. 9; cf. Exod. 20:3 and Deut. 5:7). This is one of many examples where God’s law from the Old Testament is brought into the Psalms as an act of worship. This helps to enliven God’s Word for us and to bind it to our hearts. God speaks to us through his Word and the revelation of his plan for us. The psalm concludes with a strong exhortation for us to listen and heed all the ways God speaks to us.

Are you listening to his voice this day? Have you taken time to thank him for the many ways he has rescued you? If you are in the midst of trials, ask God to help you to hear his voice in the midst of it. Finally, spend time in his Word every day, for it is, to use the language of this psalm, “honey from the rock” (v. 16).

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Timothy C. Tennent is the President of Asbury Theological Seminary and a Professor of Global Christianity. His works include Invitation to World Missions: A Trinitarian Missiology for the Twenty-first Century and Theology in the Context of World Christianity: How the Global Church Is Influencing the Way We Think about and Discuss Theology. He blogs at timothytennent.com and can be followed on twitter @TimTennent.

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